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Is United Platinum status worth it vs Gold?

by on Tue November 1, 2016 • 22 Comments


United MileagePlus has four Premier levels in its frequent flier program: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and 1K.

Platinum status for 2016 requires you fly 75,000 Premier Qualifying Miles in a year and earn $9,000 Premier Qualifying Dollars on United flights, or partner flights ticketed directly with United.

You can get around that requirement by spending $25,000 or more in a calendar year on a Chase United MileagePlus credit card, or by simply holding the Presidential Plus credit card, but that card is no longer open to new applicants.

Reaching Premier 1k status though requires you meet the full $12,000 annual Premier Qualifying Dollar requirement with no waiver.

So Premier Platinum is the highest tier you can earn while taking advantage of the waiver of the Premier Qualifying Dollar requirement, and that can make ‘mileage running’ or taking an extra cheap flight during the year useful to help you reach the Platinum threshold beyond Gold status.

What does Premier Platinum status get you?

With Premier Platinum you get all of the benefits of Premier Gold status (which requires 50,000 miles a year of flying) plus these:

  • 9x miles per dollar spent on United airfare instead of 8x
  • Group 1 boarding instead of Group 2
  • Free award ticket changes and cancellations 61 days before departure, $25 after that instead of a $25 – $75 fee for Gold.
  • 8 free Economy Plus companions when they’re on the same reservation as you instead of just 1 free companion
  • Complimentary upgrades as soon as 72 hours before departure instead of 48 hours
  • 2 Regional Premier Upgrade certificates
  • 10% discount on Duty Free purchases
  • No phone ticketing fee
  • Access to better Saver Award availability in Business or First Class (in theory, but rarely in practice)

Are the benefits worth it?

There are three really valuable benefits if you fly a lot in our view:

Free  / $25 award ticket changes and cancellations are big if you use award travel more than a few times a year.

When you can’t find award space on the exact flights you want, having free changes lets you keep an eye on space and switch the moment you see something open up, and $25 is pretty reasonable to save on miles.

It also lets you grab space that you see available, but aren’t yet completely sure will work for your schedule. So instead of seeing space, then putting in for time off work, then hoping it’s still available, you can get the space up front and deal with it once you’ve firmed up your other plans.

8 free Economy Plus companions is also a big money saver for families.


Instead of paying fees up to $299 a person, you can confirm Economy Plus seating for your whole family at the time of booking on any United flight. This really stands out right now, as Delta has recently changed its policy to hold back on giving a companion free Comfort+ seating until 24 hours before departure for flights beyond May. And that only includes one free companion, not 8.

American’s Platinum level allows up to 8 free companions in its Main Cabin Extra section at the time of booking, but the extra legroom section is pretty much non existent on most old US Airways planes, so it’s not nearly as useful as United’s benefit.

Group 1 boarding instead of Group 2 puts you ahead of the scrum.


Right now, Premier Gold members are stuck boarding in Group 2, which includes all of the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card holders, so boarding in that group doesn’t always give you a guarantee you’ll find space for your carryon bag in the overhead bins.

As a Platinum you get to board in Group 1 with First/Business Class passengers and Premier 1Ks, butting only Global Services members ahead in the boarding order.

That pretty much guarantees you a spot for your bags if you show up when your boarding group is called.

But beware that United is in the process of evaluating a different boarding method.

It’s possible Platinum will no longer be in Group 1, and could be assigned to a group separate, and after First Class and Premier 1k members. It might be its own group, or it might get lumped in with Premier Gold members.

We’re not concerned United will put Platinum members in the same group as United Explorer credit card holders, but don’t gun for Platinum with the expectation being the first real group to board will remain a benefit.

What about upgrades?


We wouldn’t advise you to gun for Platinum status just for the higher upgrade priority either. Unless you find yourself regularly sitting in coach after being #1 or #2 on the upgrade list the higher priority probably won’t help much.

The two Regional Premier Upgrades can be useful for letting you upgrade on flights that don’t allow free upgrades, like the Newark to San Francisco / Los Angeles P.S. service and the Newark / Houston / Washington, D.C. to Honolulu flights with lie flat seats.

But upgrade space in advance is tough on the P.S. routes unless you’re flying at off peak times and are flexible with dates. Upgrades to Hawaii are still possible to find if you plan far advance, even on the long Newark to Honolulu flight during off peak months like the fall.

And if an upgrade isn’t available in advance, you can always waitlist to see if it clears. Read our guide to everything you need to know about upgrade options and waitlisting here.

Also remember that you can apply your Regional Premier Upgrades to anyone you’d like, but don’t try to sell or barter them unless you want your MileagePlus account shut down.

We’d probably value the Regional upgrades at $200 – $500 a piece if you are able to use them on high value routes like the P.S. or Hawaii ones. But if you’re just using them to lock in space on garden variety short flights we wouldn’t give them much value at all, and they aren’t worth booking an extra trip to earn.

Should you book an extra flight?

All in all, Premier Platinum is probably worth booking an extra $400 flight if you can really use the award booking fee wavier, plan to take a family of 4 or more on a trip and can save on Economy Plus, and want the peace of mind of earlier boarding.

You can also consider using United’s Premier Accelerator to buy extra Premier Qualifying Miles on your next ticket, though you often have to pay 10 cents or more per mile (so for example 10,000 would cost you over $1,000), so it’s probably best if you’re just shy of the 75,000 qualifying hurdle, not 10,000 miles or more.

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22 thoughts on Is United Platinum status worth it vs Gold?

  1. Andy J.


    Now that I have hit a “status” level, I find myself intrigued and maybe a little addicted to the concept. I read somewhere that one can become a lifetime member after reaching one million cumulative miles. The notion of not having to go through this chase for a status every year is very appealing. Are there any shortcuts or tricks to reaching this status?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Peter H

    I’m 8863 miles short of platinum. Had it this past year and have seen the difference in being upgraded 6 times. Group 1 in a congested short route can’t overstated enough. I also frequently will take my two kids with me on transcon trips which would require me to pay for at least one Eco+ upgrade. We have a lot of flights booked for next year but are one schedule change away from two of my family being bumped to the back of the bus. I found a $650 r/t to ANC on an out and back that would put me over. And, my wife reaped the benefit of an RPU one way upgrade SEA-IAD. Worth it?

  3. Jac

    I am currently at Gold status and the only thing left for Platinum this year is about 3150 miles. I know the benfits aren’t a HUGE difference, but still interested in it for the small perks. To give you an idea of my “traveler profile”, I travel to the Middle East, down the West Coast, to the Mid-West from West coast and to DC from West coast multiple times a year. Worth it?
    I don’t have any United travel on the books for the rest of the year, so if I were to book a flight, what mile and class requirements do I need to meet? Do the 8x miles for gold status apply to the flight miles earned, this requiring a shorter flight to earn the final miles? Thanks for the help.


      @Jac – The 8x bonus does not count toward the premier qualifying miles earned. As long as you’ve spent the full $9,000 in ticket so far, then any flights that get you 3,150 in flight distance should get you there (as long as it’s not a ‘Basic Economy’ fare).

      Platinum is a reasonable difference since there are no fees for changing many award tickets.

  4. George

    I’m fine with miles to become platinum this year, should end up around 85K but my PQD is only at 8K,
    is there a way to gain the 1k to bring me up to 9K without booking another flight?

  5. Ivan X

    I’m curious about this bullet point:

    * Access to better Saver Award availability in Business or First Class (in theory, but rarely in practice)

    This would be my main motivation for going on a status run that would put me into Platinum through the end of 2018. I did look at a couple of arbitrary flights and I did see IN award availability, often only 1, but that would be ok for me. I’d never need more than 2.

    Can you (or anyone) say anything more about what expanded Biz Saver availability actually exists once you’re a Platinum?


      @Ivan X – That ‘IN’ inventory is a decent proxy but no guarantees on how much will be available. One encouraging thing, United is now explicitly labeling flights that have the expanded availability in search results, so it’s a benefit they’re aware of and trying to better promote.

  6. JSloan

    I just received an offer to purchase platinum status for $1599. Coming down to Gold status after being 1K last year is going to be a shock. Do you advise paying this sum, which seems high, to bump my status? I don’t spend much on United flights and I haven’t used previous upgrades, so not sure placing much value on those for my travel preferences. Boarding group 1, however, is what I enjoy most. Thanks for your advice.

  7. Derek

    I am 170 miles away from 75K for platinum. I was told I cannot buy these miles. I must fly by 12/31. Is this the case? I have been Gold for years, so not sure/remember how this works. If I had to I would pick a cheap LA flight one-way, and use a few miles for the return (as everywhere is pretty pricy that week). LA is the cheapest (although Salt Lake sure would be easier)

    I fly more than once a year with family of 4, so the e-Plus upgrades should be worth this.



      @Derek – You can buy a short ticket – then when you get to the payment page you’ll see an option to ‘accelerate’ your miles. When you do that, there’s a check box that lets you purchase PQMs. They should post in a few hours. Once that happens you can cancel and refund the ticket within 24 hours of purchase, and the miles you bought will remain.

      But it will be cheaper to book and fly a flight than to buy the PQMs using the method above. The savings is in time by not flying.

  8. Don

    I am over the 75k for miles but going to fall about $300 to $400 dollars short on PQD. I assume that my only option is to purchase a flight prior to the end of the year for that amount….right?

  9. marina

    Hi – I live in NY and fly for work a bunch (economy in US and business for transatlantic or to west cost). I am gold now and based on current trips booked will be 3,490 PQM short of Platinum by end of 2016. I also fly to Europe with my husband and daughter at least once a year, plus a vacation or two in US/South America. Would you say it’s worth it to hustle for Platinum and, if so, what’s the most economical way? Any thoughts would be appreciated.


      @marina – Most economical way would be to get a cheap flight (NYC – Denver or Salt Lake should do the trick). But given your company pays for biz class not much difference for you as Plat on long business trips. And you get the free Economy Plus for you and your family with Gold.

  10. Ariel

    I’m about 2k short of platinum, single business traveler. I mostly take coast to coast flights with the occasional sfo-hnl. Would it be worth it for me to purchase pqm to make platinum next year? It seems like the only real benefit is group 1. I rarely check luggage so the overhead space with preboarding does appeal to me. I appreciate your feedback!


      @Ariel – You’d also get 2 regional upgrades, which you can use for PS flights LAX/SFO-EWR, and changes to award tickets are $0 61 days before departure, $50 after that, vs $25/$75 for Gold. Other than that though you have it nailed.

      1. Ariel

        So you’re in agreement that I shouldn’t waste $$$ purchasing 2k worth of miles to get platinum? Thanks for all the information!!!

          1. Tyler Kent

            Thanks for the article and these responses. I am in the same situation and the approx. $400 (less if I had time to take another flight) to make it past gold doesn’t pan out.

  11. Germa

    Hi, I’m planning on fly from Argentina (eze) to SFO several times next year, starting on Jan, at least 7 times and probably once per month, I’m not sure what’s the best and fastest way to get to the status level in order to get free upgrades, my company refuses to buy business tickets, but I can spend some money to use something like the accelerator.. can you recommend me a way?


      @Germa – Unfortunately you’re probably going to have to tough it out in economy. 1K status would get you 6 one way upgrades you can try to use on international flights like that (but they don’t always make upgrade space available, so it can be hit or miss). But that requires 100k miles flown and $12k in spending. You have a good shot at earning it by the end of next year with all your travel, so for 2018 you’d get some upgrades to use if you keep flying. But not much help for that first year. Basic Gold status would get you free Economy Plus extra legroom seats – 50k miles flown.


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